The Domestic Roots of International Contempt

PutinRussia offers asylum to Edward Snowden, who publicized the extent of the U.S. government’s domestic espionage, thereby presuming to teach America a lesson about civil liberties. Iran demands that the U.S. government secure justice for Trayvon Martin, (whose death a jury ruled to have resulted from self defense), thereby presuming to teach us about tolerance of minorities. The ludicrous character of these gratuitous demarches highlights the contempt for America from which they flow.

In international affairs, contempt is highly dangerous. The sense that a nation may be outraged without serious consequence has always been the sine qua non of war. Contempt is especially dangerous when it is based on reality. Russia’s and Iran’s contempt of America today is based on real divisions in the U.S. body politic, which compound the realities of foolish commitments and wasted military power. Tragically, these domestic divisions are ones that the U.S. government itself is fostering. Foreign governments can be expected to exploit self-inflicted wounds.

The U.S. government did not have to spend billions to record metadata on every American’s phone calls and to access the rest of our electronic communications. It chose to do this because it had decided to deal with the threat of terrorism primarily by policing Americans rather than by forcing the Muslim world’s despots (that world is run exclusively by despots) to suppress anti-American incitement and activities rather than fostering them.

Moreover, the U.S. government crafted its “Homeland Security” on the basis of the counterfactual assumption that every American is as likely as any other American to be or not to be a terrorist – that to decide that any set of persons deserves any more scrutiny than any other, i.e. to “profile,” is impermissible. Hence, because “Homeland Security” is willfully agnostic not to say congenitally dumb, it must spy on everybody. The NSA’s universal elimination of the privacy of Americans’ communications is neither more nor less than the electronic version of the universal virtual undressing and palpating of passengers at airports.

It should be no surprise that, according to the polls, a growing majority of the American people now view the U.S. government’s antiterrorism as a threat to liberty greater than that of terrorism itself. This spreading sense of illegitimacy should be a cause of deep reflection among the ruling class.

By the same token the U.S. government, President Barack Obama foremost, did not have to comment on an ordinary homicide in Florida. Mr. A had shot Mr. B after B had broken A’s nose and inflicted lacerations on A’s head. The police had made no arrest. Yes, one Al Sharpton who had made himself a household word by fabricating the Tawana Brawley racial hoax in 1987, along with the Chicago racial extortionist Jesse Jackson, polluted the case with their race-baiting. Alas, they and their following being important constituents of the ruling Democratic Party, Democratic politicians from President Obama on down to the Party’s roots in the ruling class pressed publicly and privately to convict Mr. A and to endow Mr. B with victimhood. Their efforts were doomed to failure in a court of law.

Nevertheless, given the interested parties’ resources, they were assured of success in their intended political purpose, namely strengthening the ruling class’ cohesion. At the outset, President Obama declared that Mr. B could have been his son. After A’s acquittal Obama piled on that B could have been himself 35 years ago and recited a list of racial grievances. B’s racial partisans, duly inflamed, were likely to vote Democratic by another percentage point or two n the forthcoming electoral cycles. Just as important, countless members of the ruling class felt better about themselves for having stood on the side of someone who they themselves had presumed a victim of racial injustice. Accusing fellow Americans of racism is a key element of the ruling class’ self image.

The contrast between the legal failure and the political success of the ruling class’ intervention in that Florida homicide further divided America along racial lines and invited enemies of America to exploit the division.

Perhaps, however, the very ludicrousness of being lectured on civil liberties by Russia, one of history’s paragons of despotism, and on tolerance by the Islamic Republic of Iran for which oppression of any and all diversity is the very definition of justice, may cause our ruling class to reflect on its errors and on the truths of national existence.

1. However convenient it may be not to constrain the Muslim regimes that foster terrorism as well as to focus on their domestic sympathizers, treating all Americans as if any is as likely as not to be an enemy ends up making the government into the enemy of all Americans.

2. However politically convenient it may be to raise the consciousness of any group of Americans against any other group, the resulting national division will make all groups, together, playthings of foreign enemies.